2. Civic Education Programme
Voter Education Programme
4. Publication of Media Rights Monitor
Media monitoring of Access to Justice Issues
6. Litigation project
7. Regional and International Activities
1. Freedom of Information
The efforts to ensure the
enactment of a freedom of information law in Nigeria continued throughout
the year 2003. Media Rights Agenda has been the driving force behind the
energetic campaign for the enactment of a Freedom of Information Act by
Nigeria’s National Assembly. In July 1999, it presented a draft Freedom
of Information Bill to the House of Representatives through three members
of the House and mounted an aggressive advocacy programme to ensure the
enactment of the Bill into law.
In 2003, Media Rights Agenda
conducted a series of Freedom of Information advocacy activities,
including the publication of a report on the legislative advocacy
programme so far, entitled: “Campaigning for Access to Information in
Nigeria: A Report of the Legislative Advocacy Programme for the Enactment
of a Freedom of Information Act”, two meetings with editors, political
editors, correspondents and reporters from print and broadcast media
establishments in Lagos; and producing briefing documents on Freedom of
Information for the 30 political parties to secure their support for the
Media Rights Agenda also made
two sub-grants to the Akwa Ibom State Council of the Nigeria Union of
Journalists (NUJ) in Uyo and the Kaduna Branch of Women in Nigeria (WIN)
in Kaduna, to organize one-day meetings around the Freedom of Information
Bill in the South South Zone and in the North West Zone.
The implementation of various
activities under the grant resulted in a greater awareness is wider
Nigerian society about the Freedom of Information Bill, including in the
media, among the political parties, and among civil society organisations
in far flung parts of Nigeria with an increase in media output with
regards to news and reports on the Bill. It also resulted in the
expansion of the membership of the Freedom of Information Coalition with
greater vitality in its operations as the Secretariat became more
responsive to the needs of its members and through better communication,
created a greater sense of belonging.
The publication of the report
on the earlier advocacy efforts also provided invaluable documentation for
members of the Coalition and non-members alike on the range of activities
conducted so far, the various strategies used and their effectiveness,
which the result that other organisations interested in legislative
advocacy would be better placed to plan their own project and programmes.
A major shortcoming of the
project was the fact that the impact of the advocacy project was also
limited by the fact that they took place in the heat of elections and
electioneering campaigns as members of the National Assembly were deeply
engrossed in politicking and did not really have much time in the final
months of their tenure to devote to legislative business. As a result,
the Bill could not be finally considered and passed by the House of
Representatives despite the repeated promises made to Media Rights Agenda
and members of the Freedom of Information Coalition by the then Chairman
of the House Committee on Information, Honourable Lawan Farouk, that he
would present the Committee’s report from the Public Hearing to the full
House and that the bill would be passed before the dissolution of the
Most of the advocacy activities
were carried out with the support of the Partnership for Advocacy and
Civic Empowerment (PACE) project of the International Human Rights Law
Group funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
as well as funding from the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI).
Under the project MRA undertook the
1.1 Meeting with Editors
On Monday, March 24, 2003, Media Rights
Agenda and the Freedom of Information Coalition organized a meeting
between members of the Coalition and editors from the print and broadcast
media. The meeting was organized in collaboration with the Nigerian Guild
of Editors (NGE) and was held at the Lagos Airport Hotel, in Ikeja, Lagos.
The main objective of the meeting was to
solicit the assistance of editors from media establishments in the print
and broadcast sectors in making the enactment of a Freedom of Information
law an electoral campaign issue. Through their involvement in the
campaign, it was expected that politicians seeking to stand for election
into various offices would be compelled to make public statements on their
position on the twin issues of transparency and accountability in
government, and also make a commitment to support the efforts to enact a
law, which gives a legal right to citizens to have access to public
1.2 Meeting with Political
On Monday, March 31, 2003,
Media Rights Agenda and the Freedom of Information Coalition again
organized another meeting for members of the Coalition and political
editors/correspondents from print and broadcast media in Lagos as a follow
up to the meeting with editors. The meeting was held at the Lagos Travel
Inn in Ikeja, Lagos.
Like an earlier meeting with
editors, this meeting was also expected to provide a platform for Media
Rights Agenda to sensitize the political editors and correspondents to the
issue of access to information, brief them on the campaign effort so far
and the status of the Bill at the National Assembly. It was also expected
that through greater commitment and involvement in the campaign, they
would ensure that politicians seeking to stand for election into various
offices would be asked questions and forced to make public statements on
their position on the issue of transparency in government, and commit
themselves to supporting the campaigns to enact an access to information
law in Nigeria.
1.3 Production of
Briefing Documents for the 30 Political Parties
In the course of the political
campaigns preceding the 2003 general elections held in April and May,
Media Rights Agenda produced briefing documents on Freedom of Information
Bill. These documents will include copies of the Freedom of Information
Bill, other materials on the Freedom of Information Bill, the rationale
for a public right of access to information held by government and
linkages between freedom of information and good governance. These
documents will be distributed to the principal officers of the various
parties as well as the presidential and vice presidential candidates of
the parties that had contestants.
1.4 Sub-Grant to
Nigeria Union of Journalists, Akwa-Ibom State
In May 2003, Media Rights Agenda made a
sub-grant to the Akwa Ibom State Council of the
Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) to organize a one-day
symposium/stakeholders meeting on the Freedom of Information Bill. The
symposium was held at the Agatha Garden Hotels in Uyo on
May 27, 2003. It was attended
by about 50 participants, including people from the academia, the Nigeria
Police Force, community-based organisations, human rights NGOs, the media
and the general public. It was also attended by the Coordinator of the
Freedom of Information Coalition, Mr. Osaro Odemwingie.
1.5 Sub-Grant to
Women in Nigeria, Kaduna Branch
Also in May, Media Rights
Agenda made another sub-grant to the Kaduna branch of Women in Nigeria
(WIN) to organize a one-day meeting in Kaduna on the Freedom of
Information Bill. The meeting was held on May 30, 2003. It was attended
by editors, reporters as well as some members of the House of
Representatives in the National Assembly from Kaduna State and the Kaduna
State House of Assembly. Presentations were made at the meeting by WIN
Kaduna Coordinator, Miss Ngukwase Surma, and the Coordinator of the FOI
Coalition, Mr. Osaro Odemwingie.
1.6 Publication of
Legislative Advocacy Book
In June, 2003, Media Rights
Agenda published a report in book form, documenting its experience in the
legislative advocacy for the Freedom of Information bill. The report is
entitled “Campaigning for Access to Information in Nigeria: A Report of
the Advocacy for the Freedom of Information Bill”.
The 69-page book, in three
parts, contains detailed information about the origins of the Freedom of
Information Bill, the process of getting sponsorship and its submission to
the National Assembly, various advocacy activities undertaken since 1999
to ensure the passage of the Bill, including advocacy visits to
legislators and other government officials, the processes it has gone
through in the National Assembly, public enlightenment and mobilization
activities, etc. The report also contains the text of the Freedom of
Information Bill with the recommendations of the House of Representatives
Committee on Information on the various sections and MRA’s analysis of and
comments on the implications of these recommendations.
The report is intended as a
tool for MRA to share its experience and those of its partners in
legislative advocacy using the Freedom of Information Bill as focus. It
is also intended to document in a permanent form the contributions of
civil society organizations to the process of making the Freedom of
Information Act to provide a rich resource or practical material for civil
society organizations, academics, researchers and other interested persons
the Freedom of Information Coalition
Media Rights Agenda also
embarked on a process of strengthening the Freedom of Information
Coalition through capacity-building for its Secretariat and expanding its
membership base. A full-time staff was deployed to undertake the
coordination of the Coalition’s activities while Media Rights Agenda
provided office space and resources for his use.
The coordinator was also
provided with communication facilities to enhance the coordination with
members. A mobile telephone through which members of the coalition could
contact the coordinator was provided for the Secretariat while an email
account (firstname.lastname@example.org) was also opened and dedicated to
Freedom of Information communication. In addition, a discussion platform
and listserv (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FOIcoalition) was created to
facilitate exchanges and discussions on issues relating to access to
information generally, the Freedom of Information Bill, transparency and
accountability. Members of the Coalition and other persons who are either
journalists or civil society activists, seeking to share information or
make inquiries on issues relating to the Bill, simply send an email to
FOIcoalition@yahoogroups.com and all members receive it.
Bedsides coordinating freedom
of information related activities, the secretariat also embarked on a
massive campaign to recruit organizations from all parts of the country
into the Freedom of Information Coalition in order to ensure that all the
six geo-political zones of the country are represented in the Coalition.
At the end of the year, the Coalition had 87 member organisations in 18
states of the federation.
1.8 Petition to
members of the National Assembly on the “Right to Know Day”
Media Rights Agenda joined
counterparts in Nigeria and around the world to observe the “Right to Know
Day” on September 28, 2003. The annual international “Right to Know Day”
was being celebrated for the first time in 2003. September 28 was
designated as the “Right to Know Day” by Freedom of Information
organizations from various countries at a meeting held in Sofia, Bulgaria,
in September 2002.
Media Rights Agenda, in
collaboration with the Freedom of Information Coalition, members undertook
advocacy visits to members of the country’s National Assembly in an effort
aimed at sensitizing and lobbying members to enact at the earliest
possible time the Freedom of Information Act.
The advocacy teams presented
each member of the National Assembly signed letters asking them to support
the enactment of the Bill into law and expedite action on the legislative
In addition to a widely
published press statement issued on that day, there were also discussion
programmes on freedom of information and the significance of the Right to
Know Day on television stations, including the Channels Television and on
the popular morning magazine programme on Africa Independent Television,
Assistance to Joint Committee of the House of Representatives
In November 2003, Media Rights Agenda
provided technical assistance to the Joint Committee of the House of
Representatives, made up of the Committee on Information, the Committee on
Human Rights, and the Committee on Justice, which were charged with
reviewing the Freedom of Information Bill in detail and submitting a
report to the full House.
The meeting was necessary as most the
members of the House were new and therefore lacked experience of
legislative processes generally and, in particular, of how to review bills
at the committee level and write their reports.
Media Rights Agenda organized meetings with
members of the Joint Committee as well as some of their support staff as a
platform for providing guidance to the members on how to go about
reviewing the bill the preparing their reports. The Committee was also
assisted in producing its final report to the House.
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2. Civic Education Programme
In an effort to ensure broader
participation of the non-elite members of the society in media debates on
the political process and the general elections held in April 2003, Media
Rights Agenda implemented a civic education programme aimed at giving the
disadvantaged members of the society a voice in the media. The project
took place between the months of February and April.
The project was implemented in two phases.
The first phase was a one-day meeting between journalists from different
media organizations, cutting across print and broadcast, and leaders of
traditionally excluded civil society sector groups such as students,
market men and women, mechanics, butchers, motor cyclists, furniture
makers, drivers, artisans and other non-elite members of the society. It
was held on February 18, 2003, at the Chemical and Allied Products Centre
(CAPL) in Ikeja, Lagos and was attended by 15 journalists and 45 leaders
of civil society sector groups.
The meeting provided an opportunity for
representatives of these civil society groups to engage media
professionals over their exclusion from the debates in the media about the
political process and elections and to be educated on how they can have
effective access to the media. On their part, the journalists present had
a better understanding of the perceptions of a vital section of the
society about them and their work.
In the second phase of the project, which
began after the meeting, Media Rights Agenda purchased airtime on EKO
89.75 FM radio station and on Lagos Television (LTV), both in Lagos, for a
weekly 30-minute discussion programme titled: “Grassroots Voices”
where different persons from these sectors of civil society were featured
every week to discuss political issues on various aspects of the political
process and elections on each of the programmes. The programme on EKO
89.75 FM aired between 8.05 p.m. and 8.35 p.m. every Friday. It began on
February 28, 2003 and ended on April 18, 2003.
The programme on Lagos Television aired
between 7.00 pm and 7.30 p.m. every Sunday and also ran for eight weeks.
It began on March 2, 2003 and ended on
May 18, 2003.
Discussions on both programmes
were conducted primarily in pidgin to enable members of these target
groups participate effectively. While the radio programme was
pre-recorded, the television edition of the programme was live thereby
giving opportunities for viewers to phone in and contribute to the
The project created a platform for
non-elite members of civil society, particularly the market women,
drivers, artisans and students, to engage media professionals in a process
of giving such groups a better understanding of how they can access the
media while at the same time ensuring that journalists appreciate the
importance of reflecting their perspectives in the media.
It also provided access to the media to
non-elite members of civil society, particularly the market women,
drivers, artisans and students to ventilate political and other views so
as to ensure greater participation in the political process.
The programme was highly
successful. The forum between leaders of civil society organizations and
journalists provided an opportunity of both sides to frankly put across
their views on what they think about the other, the challenges that
members of the civil society sector face while attempting to access the
media. The journalists also had an opportunity to dispel what they called
the wrong notion that members of the civil society have of them and the
problems that they face while trying to obtain information and views from
members of the civil society.
Most importantly, the form
provided an opportunity for journalists present to explain to members of
the civil society how they can easily secure access to the media and
members of both groups exchanged addressees to further their contact.
The programmes on radio and
television served to demystify access to the media for guests, members of
the civil society organization and the generality of civil society people.
This fact was easily confirmed by the utterances of many of the guests
while on air. They confirmed that they had never had an opportunity to be
interviewed by a journalist, much less appear on a radio or television
Guests on the programmes
consistently urged their members never to lose faith in democracy, to
ensure that they participated meaningfully in the elections as well
The project was supported by
the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) with funds provided by the United
Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the European Union and UK’s
Department for International Development (DFID).
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3. Voter Education Programme
Media Rights Agenda also conducted a voter
education project titled: “Operation Get Out the Voters at Ajuwon/Akute
Communities” ahead of the April/May 2003 elections. The project activity
was based on the conviction that a politically conscious and active
citizenry, participating fully and meaningfully in the elections, would
constitute a restraining factor to electoral manipulations and
Under the project, Media Rights Agenda
organised a series of mass mobilisation activities to galvanise the people
of Ajuwon and Akute communities in Ifo Local Government Area of Ogun State
on the border with Lagos State to participate actively
and positively in the 2003 elections.
Representatives of Media Rights Agenda also
paid advocacy visits to the Baales-in-Council (the community leaders and
council of elders) of Akute and Ajuwon communities and the Community
Development Committee, which is made up of all the Community Development
Associations in Ifo Local Government area.
In addition, Media Rights Agenda recruited
60 youths from the communities and trained them to undertake a mass
mobilisation of residents of the communities through rallies, drama and
the distribution of IEC materials as well as by teaching them voting
procedures and how to conduct themselves at polling stations.
The programme was executed with
the support from the Partnership for Advocacy and Civic Empowerment (PACE)
project of the International Human Rights Law Group funded by the United
States Agency for International Development (USAID).
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4. Publication of Media Rights
Throughout the year, Media
Rights Agenda sustained the publication of its monthly newsletter, “Media
Rights Monitor”, for the seventh year running.
Under this project, Media
Rights Agenda monitored all forms of attacks on the media and media
practitioners and conducted researches on how various laws and
administrative practices relating to the media in Nigeria comply with
constitutional provisions and international standards for the protection
of media freedom and freedom of expression.
These were published the
journal with about 3,000 copies printed monthly and distributed primarily
to journalists in Nigeria, press associations and human rights
organizations within and outside Nigeria, government departments and
agencies including the police public relations departments, whose
functions and activities affects the media, and diplomatic missions.
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5. Media monitoring of Access
to Justice Issues
During year, Media Rights
Agenda carried out a Media Monitoring Project of Public Perceptions on
Accessible Justice issues in radio stations and newspapers in different
parts of the country. The monitoring exercise took place between April
and August 2003.
The broad purpose of the
project was to provide independent and objective data on public
perceptions on accessible justice, as reflected in the media. The project
monitored the coverage of issues of accessible justice, human rights and
public accountability with respect to justice sector issues in general and
the “voices of the poor” in particular, on the selected radio stations,
which cut across different forms of ownership. These were the Federal
Government, state governments, and private ownership.
It also monitored these issues
on selected daily and weekly newspapers with similar forms of ownership.
The project activities involved
recruiting and training of a number of media monitors to carry out the
content monitoring exercise. The trained individuals were deployed with
materials and monitoring equipment to the Benue, Ekiti, Enugu, and Jigawa
States as well as Abuja and Lagos.
They monitored a number of
select media outlets to obtain first hand information on the perspectives,
experiences, understanding, and expectations of poor people as reflected
in the radio and newspaper coverage of accessible justice issues.
Media Rights Agenda produced a
fortnightly summary reports and at the end of the project exercise,
produced a comprehensive report which analysed the findings of the entire
project. The report enrich the resource of available information on the
voices of the poor as well as establish the extent of coverage given to
accessible justice issues by the monitored radio stations and newspapers
in terms of the airtime or space devoted to them and how comprehensively
events relating to these issues are reported and analyzed.
It also revealed the pattern of reporting
events relating to accessible justice issues such as the prominence given
to them, and the order in which they are reported relative to other
Similarly, it established how much effort
was made by the media to report on accessible justice issues in order to
reach the poorer and less advantaged communities, especially in the rural
areas and lastly assessed the differences in the
perceptions of issues of accessible justice, human rights and public
accountability, as expressed in the media, by different groups such as
rural populations, the urban poor, the elderly, youths and migrants.
The project was supported by
Access to Justice programme of the British Council in Nigeria through
funds provided by the Department for International Development of the UK
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6. Litigation project
In the course of the year,
Media Rights Agenda continued its free expression litigation programme
both in domestic courts and before the African Commission on Human and
The free expression cases conducted by
Media Rights Agenda were of two types. The first was in the form of legal
aid to individual journalists under which the organization provided legal
assistance and support for journalists who were arrested and detained,
unfairly dismissed from their work, harassed and intimidated or whose
rights were violated in some other way as well as journalists who were
unfairly accused of criminal offences or subjected to oppressive criminal
proceedings as a result of their professional duties.
The second type of free expression
litigation was more geared towards broad freedom of expression issues and
generally aimed at expanding the frontiers of media freedom through the
judicial process. This was also used in an effort to bring about the
reform of media laws in Nigeria.
This is in accordance with a strategy agreed by participants at a Media
Law Reform Workshop jointly organized by Media Rights Agenda; Article 19;
and the National Human Rights Commission at Ota in Ogun State, from March
16 to 18, 1999, and attended by 61 representatives of the media, both
independent and state controlled; regulatory bodies; the legal profession;
international institutions; local and international non-governmental
organizations; and other interest groups. In “The Ota Platform of Action
on Media Law Reform in Nigeria”, a consensus document which emerged at the
end of that workshop, the participants agreed that the sponsoring
organizations should undertake to develop appropriate strategies through
which the programme of media law reform can be realized. In addition to
dialogue with the government and broader strategies of advocacy, they
suggested that litigation should also be pursued.
Media Rights Agenda continued in 2003 to use this strategy in an effort to
bring about a corpus of favourable judicial pronouncements which would
create an enabling legal environment for the practice of journalism and
free expression in Nigeria. Since 1999 when it began the litigation
programme, Media Rights Agenda has filed cases in different courts in
Nigeria dealing with a broad range of issues, including access to
information, the regulation of the press, taxation on newspapers and
magazines through the introduction of a regime of value added tax, the
regulation of broadcasting, the management of publicly funded media, etc.
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7. Regional and International
Media Rights Agenda continued
in the course of 2003 to be involved in a number of regional and
international activities in the field of media freedom, freedom of
expression and human rights generally. Some of these activities include:
7.1 Partnership for
Media and Conflict Prevention in West Africa
In 2003, Media Rights Agenda
joined other regional and international organizations to form the
Partnership for Media and Conflict Prevention in West Africa. The
objective of the Partnership is to facilitate the provision of
collaborative support to the media to pre-empt and mitigate the effects of
conflict and their humanitarian consequences. The understanding is that
the Partnership would utilise the diverse expertise and resources
available amongst national, regional and international stakeholders,
thereby offering a unique approach for the provision of assistance.
The process leading to the
formation of the Partnership began with discussions at the “Assistance to
Media in Tension Areas and Violent Conflict” seminar hosted by United the
Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and
Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency
(SIDA) in Stockholm in May 2003.
Following those discussions,
between July 6 and 8, 2003, a meeting was held in Accra, Ghana, to analyse
media and conflict in West Africa, with a specific focus on Liberia and
Ivory Coast. Participants at the meeting came from a broad mix of
intergovernmental organisations, government agencies, donor institutions,
as well as human rights organisations, media associations and NGOs of
national, regional and international character.
Out of this meeting emerged a
strategy paper, which sought to provide a broad analysis on the role of
the media in West African conflicts and identify how national media
communities could be supported by regional and international actors in
periods of crisis, as well as play a central role in conflict management,
including prevention and resolution. The paper also explored the potential
for support between national West African media communities in times of
crisis and focused specifically on the situations in Liberia and Ivory
Coast as pressing current examples of where joint action could facilitate
implementation and maximise impact.
The meeting resulted in the formation of the Partnership. In addition
Media Rights Agenda, other members are: ARTICLE 19, the Global Campaign
for Free Expression, based in London; Canadian Journalist for Free
Expression (CJFE) in Toronto, Canada; Fondation Hirondelle; Ibis–West
Africa; the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in Brussels; the
International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), based in Toronto; the
International Media Support (IMS) in Copenhagen, Denmark; IREX Europe
based in Lyon, France; the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) in
Accra, Ghana; the Open Society Institute (OSI) in Budapest, Hungary; Panos
Institute West Africa (PIWA), based in Dakar, Senegal; the United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) based in Paris,
France; and the World Association of Newspapers (WAN), also in Paris.
The Executive Director of Media Rights
Agenda, Mr. Edetaen Ojo, has been designated the Coordinator of the
Mission to Liberia
December 10 and 16, 2003, Media Rights Agenda joined a team of regional
and international media organizations which traveled to
carry out an assessment of the media situation in the country. The other
organizations involved in the mission were UNESCO, PIWA Media Rights
Agenda, MFWA, IMS, the IFJ,
the CJFE, IFEX and ARTICLE 19.
The joint objectives of the
mission were to:
Review the media situation in Liberia and the effects of the conflict;
Compile a list of
the main national, regional and international stakeholders in Liberia,
including a comprehensive overview of their previous, current and
foreseen activities; and
Produce a list of
priority areas clearly outlining both immediate and development related
recommendations for support to the media and humanitarian information
needs, including proposed activities and funding requirements.
In addition to the above
objectives, the team was requested by UNESCO to provide input to the then
ongoing joint UNDG/World Bank needs assessment for the transitional
period. Under the sectoral cluster on Governance and Human Rights, the
mission prepared recommendations for an immediate and medium-term approach
to the development of media and freedom of expression in Liberia.
In the immediate term, it was
crucial for the mission to provide recommendations that would address
issues of relevance to the DDRR process. However, it was also emphasized
that whilst the media has a role in peace-building, it is important that
it develops as a free and independent actor with a responsibility for
watching over good governance, public accountability and transparency.
The mission met with a wide
range of Liberian media professionals cutting across the print and
broadcast media, national and international civil society and NGO
representatives, officials from the transitional government, UN agencies
and the European Union, as well as members of the diplomatic community.
The team also met with the Chairman of the National Transitional
Government of Liberia, Mr. Gyude Bryant, and Mr. Jacques Paul Klein, the
Special Representative of the Secretary-General, who is also the
Coordinator of United Nations Operations in Liberia.
Following the mission, the Partnership produced a comprehensive report
titled: “Supporting the Media in
Review of the Media Landscape for the Post-Conflict Transition Period” to
guide its future activities but also to give other actors, either already
active in Liberia or interested in working in the country, an insight what
the urgent needs are.
The 90-page report outlines
collaborative approaches for supporting the media during the immediate and
longer-term transition periods, both in overcoming obstacles and
developing capacities and resources, as well as contributing towards the
creation of lasting peace, stability and democracy.
The report addresses areas of
media policy and legal reform; the print media; the independent broadcast
media; public service broadcasting; humanitarian information; associations
and networking; monitoring and advocacy; safety and legal aid; as well as
training and media content.
Two of the activities recommended in the
report are at the initial stages of implementation. These are the
development of a Press Resource Center at the Press
Union of Liberia and a comprehensive review of the legal, institutional,
regulatory and policy framework for the media in Liberia.
The Executive Director of Media Rights
Agenda is in charge of coordinating the implementation of activities under
7.3 Advocacy on
Media Rights Agenda became
interested in Zimbabwe early in 2002, in the run up to the general
elections which took place in March that year. Its primary focus was the
plight of the media in
following the enactment Access to Information and Protection of Privacy
Act, among other repressive laws. It conducted a study then on the state
of the media in Zimbabwe and
examined the implications of the new law for journalism practice.
Subsequently, issues and developments concerning the Zimbabwean media were
regularly highlighted in the Media Rights Agenda’s monthly journal, the
“Media Rights Monitor”.
Subsequently, Media Rights
Agenda developed more formalized links with the Crisis in Zimbabwe
Coalition (ZCC). The ZCC is a coalition of more than 350 civil society
formed in August 2001 as a collective response by Zimbabwean civics to the
multi-faceted crisis facing that country. The Coalition represents
a broad cross section of
Zimbabwean civil society, including labour, students, women, church
groups, human rights activists, media practitioners, war veterans,
farmers, lawyers, doctors and pro-democracy actors.
Between September 28 and
October 8, 2003, a delegation of the ZCC made an advocacy visit to West
Africa where they visited three countries in the sub-region to raise
awareness about the political, economic and human rights situation in
Zimbabwe. The delegation, made up of Wellington Chibebe, General
Secretary of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU); Mrs. Sara Moyo,
representing the Human Rights NGO Forum; Mrs. Emilia Muchawa, representing
the Women’s Coalition; and Pastor Chims Phiri, representing the churches,
visited Senegal, Nigeria and Ghana.
The trips were
organised in collaboration with the Institute for Democracy in South
Africa (IDASA). In
Media Rights Agenda served as the host organisation and organised a series
of advocacy meetings for the delegation with various media organisations,
civil society groups and parliamentarians in
and Abuja to raise awareness among different sectors of the Nigerian
society about the political, economic and human rights
situation in Zimbabwe.
In the course of their visit to
Media Rights Agenda also organised a series of press interviews and press
conferences with local and international media in Lagos and Abuja for the
ZCC delegation. It organised meetings with civil society organisations,
including the Nigerian Labour Congress, the Civil Society Forum hosted by
the Catholic Secretariat, the United Action for Democracy (UAD), a
coalition of 46 human rights and pro-democracy organisations in Nigeria,
and a civil society roundtable.
The delegation also met with
the Speaker of the House of Representatives, along with other key figures
in the parliament, including the Deputy Speaker, the Chairpersons and
Deputy Chairpersons of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee on
Human Rights, the Committee on Cooperation and Integration in Africa, and
the Committee on Media and Public Affairs.
The visit was founded on the
belief that the political and human rights situation in Zimbabwe was
largely misunderstood across Africa, particularly by African governments
and leaders, because of deliberate misinformation about the true situation
and that because of this lack of proper information and understanding,
policy responses by African countries have been faulty and have been
ineffective in addressing the situation.
The meetings were therefore
intended raise the profile of Zimbabwe in political discourse within
Nigeria, enlighten various government officials as well as members of
civil society organizations about the true situation of human rights in
Zimbabwe and to raise awareness among these sectors in the hope that
Nigerians would become more enlightened about what is going on here and
that Nigerian government’s policy on Zimbabwe will be geared towards
tackling the real issues.
The delegation’s visit to
Nigeria strengthened the links between Media Rights Agenda and ZCC and a
process was established through which Media Rights Agenda would receive
regular updates, sometimes several times a week, about developments taking
place on the political, economic, social and human rights landscape in
information is subsequently circulated through established channels and
networks in Nigeria
to a variety of interest groups, including the media, in continuation of
the awareness raising efforts.
the delegation’s visit, Media Rights Agenda was invited to a lobbying and
Advocacy training workshop held in
between October 30 and 31, 2003 to share experiences with Zimbabwean civil
society organizations on advocacy strategies for addressing the human
rights situation in Zimbabwe. Organised by the Media Monitoring
Project-Zimbabwe (MMPZ) and the Zimbabwe chapter of the Media Institute of
(MISA-Zimbabwe), the theme of the workshop was “Let the
People Speak – Effective Civil Society Lobbying for
The workshop was attended by
about 40 participants, including representatives of Zimbabwean civil
society organisations and coalitions as well as representatives of
regional and international organisations such as Amnesty International
(AI), ARTICLE 19, the International Media Support, International Bar
Association (IBA), the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), the Media
Institute for Southern Africa (MISA) and the Congress of South African
Trade Unions (COSATU).
At the end of the workshop, a
12-point “Plan of Action” was agreed upon. The Plan of Action gave
specific roles to Media Rights Agenda, in addition to other general
proposals in which the organisation would also have to play a role. Media
Rights Agenda was charged with assisting MISA-Zimbabwe, MMPZ, the Zimbabwe
Union of Journalists (ZUJ) and the Independent Journalists Association of
Zimbabwe (IJAZ) to produce a draft strategic plan on national, African and
international advocacy and lobbying on the media crisis in Zimbabwe and a
strategic communications document for international lobbying purposes that
would outline the media crisis in Zimbabwe. Media Rights Agenda was also
given the task of helping to organise access for Zimbabwean NGOs to the
Commonwealth Peoples Forum taking place alongside the Commonwealth Heads
of Government Meeting (CHOGM), which took place in Abuja in December 2003.
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